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View From Section U: On The Subject Of Triangles

Sorry, no View From Section U column tonight.  At least nothing original.  I’m going to use the evening to get a jump of the weekend preview as well as try to get to some other stuff I’ve ignored.  But I figured I may as well dust off something from the archives for new FTT readers.  I’m sure there are probably some new students and fans that have found their way to the blog since the restart who may be asking themselves, “What’s the deal with the triangles and why should we be afraid of them?”  I’d like to say that the blog’s name is based on my own interpretation of a can’t miss triangle offense which I took years developing.  But, I’ve never played hockey and don’t have a great knowledge of the Xs and Os, so that’s not it.

It has to do with those wonderful jerseys that were ranked higher, at least in this list, than any team that wore them.  So I’ll take this opportunity to bring the myth and magic of the triangle to those who have only recently become UMass fans.  It’s also timely since the subject of triangles came up during this past weekend’s radio broadcast, with play-by-play announcer John Hennessy even mentioning a phobia of everyone’s favorite geometric shape (your check is in the mail, John).  So here’s what I wrote about the infamous beloved triangle back in 2010 when the team was going through some trying times:

In the tradition of Paul Revere, Billy Dawes, and Samuel Prescott, I am officially alerting the Minuteman militias.  “The Triangles are coming!  The Triangles are coming!”

I’m sure many people have started reading the Fear The Triangle blog in the past year without really knowing what the phrase even means.  Well I guess it’s time to fill you in.  The triangle of course refers to the old pennant jerseys introduced by former coach Joe Mallen when the program was resurrected in 1993.  That year also marked my first year at UMass and when I first started following the team.  Many of the friends whom I watch the game with started following the team around the same time or a few years later, but we all remember those Mallen years vividly.  Or should I say we all remember those years, unfortunately.  That was some pretty bad hockey bad then.  Not only did UMass lose regularly, they lost in epic fashion at times.  It wasn’t easy being a UMass fan back then, but we had fun and stuck with the team anyway.  Flash forward to 2006.  The team had long since abandoned its triangle jerseys and somewhat abandoned it’s losing ways.  Kinda.  The 2006-2007 squad got out to a good start with a 6-1-1 record.  But then it all came apart.  The team proceeded to go 2-6-2 over the next 10 games, with the last being a 2-1 loss at, of all places, Lawler Arena at Merrimack.  Seeing UMass basically undo all they had accomplished earlier and reverting back to the form of the Mallen years, I had a desperate idea.  If the team was going to play like the team of old that wore triangles, then we were going to play the part as fans.  A call was put out to the hardcore group of fans; it was triangle time.  Our newish block logo UMass jerseys were put away and the old 90’s era jerseys were taken out of mothballs and worn to the very next game.  What do you know, a 4-2 win at home over Merrimack.  Well that was pretty cool, so we had to wear them again right?  UMass plastered Lowell 5-1.  In fact UMass would go 5-1-1 over the next 7 games.  The season was back on track and amazingly enough at end of it all UMass had its first NCAA berth and first tournament win.  In subsequent years, in trying times when the prospects of the season look dire and the team looked downright horrid, the triangles were brought out and for the most part the team would enjoy some success.

Some teams have rally hats.  Some have rally towels.  Hell, some even have rally monkeys.  UMass, for whatever reason, has rally triangles.

Well, losers of 6 of 7 and being dominated by a 9th place Merrimack team by the score of 4-1 sure sounds like a triangle-clad team to me!  Therefore the gauntlet is being thrown down.  If you have a triangle buried somewhere in your closet or know someone who does, make sure to locate it and don it tonight.  At best whatever magic it contains may just help the team get out of its funk.  At worst, we’ll all be dressed appropriately for the level of play on the ice before us.  Who knows.  Maybe the team will in fact win.  Maybe they’ll go on a little run.  Maybe they secure a place in home ice and the pairwise to end the season.  Maybe UMass opponents will know what it means to fear the triangle.

 

The Collegian has this article on the performance of Patrick Lee, Jake Horton, and Keith Burchett so far on the season.

Troubling news on the coming seismic shift to college sports with the news that Texas will be paying each of their student-athletes $10,000 a year in the future.  Not just the athletes in their revenue driving sports, but all athletes.  It ends up being $6 million a year.  The entire UMass budget is a little less than $30 million, so this is obviously something UMass and a good portion of DI schools would not be able to match.  How UMass chooses to address the disparity, especially in football and men’s basketball, and how that would affect hockey remains to be seen.  I think a more immediate concern is if schools that currently play DI hockey choose to pay college hockey players something similar.  Certainly the Big Ten schools, Notre Dame, and potential Boston College could start offering their athletes considerable sums to play there, which puts everyone else at a huge disadvantage.  We’ll see how things continue to shake out.  But I think college sports as we’ve grown accustomed to is going to be a thing of the past.

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Recruit Update

Brandon Montour – D – Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) – Dec 2014
7 GP / 1 G / 6 A / 7 Pts / 2 PIM / 0
Montour picked up his first goal of the year in a 2-1 loss for the Blackhawks.

Brandon Egli – D – Vernon Vipers (BCHL) – 2015
6 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Egli played this past weekend for Vernon but didn’t register in the scoring.

Jake McCarthy – D – South Shore Kings (USPHL) – 2015 or 2016
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
McCarthy is still nursing an injury that is delaying his debut for the Kings.

Kurt Keats – C – Powell River Kings (BCHL) – 2015
12 GP / 11 G /7 A / 18 Pts / 10 PIM
Keats has now scored a goal in six straight games, scoring 7 goals total to go with three assists in that span.  He’s second in the league in goals and 6th in points.

Austin Plevy – C – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2015
15 GP / 9 G /16 A / 24 Pts / 20 PIM
Plevy had two goals and three assists this past week.  He continues to lead the AJHL in points while ranking 6th in goals.

Troy Conzo – RW – Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL) – 2016 or 2017
2 GP / 0 G /0 A /0 Pts / 0 PIM / -2
Conzo played his second game of the season for the Bucs but didn’t make it into the scoring.  One thing to keep in mind about Conzo is he is one of the younger players on his team.  He will still have one or two seasons in the USHL most likely after this one.

Kyler Nachtigall – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
15 GP / 3 G / 3 A / 6 Pts / 33 PIM
Nachtigall had a goal and an assist this past week.

Shane Bear – D – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
13 GP / 0 G / 6 A / 6 Pts / 16 PIM
It appears there was a stat correction this week as Bear actually lost a couple assists.

Ty Pelton-Byce – C – Team Wisconsin U18 (Elite)/Madison Memorial (WI HS) – 2016
18 GP / 11 G / 11 A / 22 Pts / 8 PIM  Team Wisconsin U18
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts  Madison Memorial
Pelton-Byce had two goals and an assist in the past week.  He’s among the league leaders in goals and points.

John Leonard – F – Springfield Rifles (Mass Selects)/Springfield Cathedral (MA HS) – 2017
10 GP / 13 G / 6 A / 19 Pts  Springfield Rifles
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts  Springfield Cathedral
T.A. from Hockeyrecruits4u blog passed along the info that Leonard is playing for the Springfield Rifles of the Mass Selects league before his high school season starts.  Leonard has mostly played with the U16 team where he currently is 4th in the league in goals and 7th in points.  He did play one game with the U18 team where he scored a hat trick.

For those interested, here is the Springfield Rifles logo:

Hmm….there is something very familiar about that image…  can’t put my finger on it…

UMass had two of the Top 5 plays highlighted on the NCAA Hockey website with Patrick Lee’s gamewinner grabbing the top spot.  I’m still partial to the Horton goal sequence though that came in at #3.  If you want to feel optimistic about this season watch that highlight a few times.  The ticket office should burn that play on DVDs to be sent to any lapsed season ticket holders.  Any Pond Club mailings should include a DVD of that play personally signed by each player that touched the puck.  A video board should be added to the side of the practice rink just to show it over and over to the poor students making the long walk in from the yellow and green lots next to Mullins and make their daily trek a little better.  Assistant coaches Joey Gasparini and Ryan Miller should save the highlight onto their phones to aid them in their recruiting trips.  All FBS football conferences that UMass is targeting for membership should be shown that video, just because hockey.  Coach Micheletto should walk in to the next UMass sports luncheon, show the play on a loop while blasting AC/DC, and just walk out leaving the luncheon regulars in stunned awe.  If you aren’t excited after watching that play there is nothing more I can do to help you, you might as well delete FTT from your bookmarks.

Here’s the latest blog entry from Troy Power chronicling the road trip to East Lansing, complete with video this week.

Here’s an interesting first piece in a series from USCHO on the current challenges in scheduling games in college hockey.  This is obviously something that is affecting UMass, as seen with all the non-conference games against Hockey East teams in the last two seasons.

Polls & Awards: Iacobellis Named HEA Player of the Week

Congratulations go to Massachusetts sophomore forward Steven Iacobellis for being named the Hockey East Player of the Week.  While Iacobellis was named the team’s Rookie of the Year last season, this is the first Hockey East weekly honor for Iacobellis who had two goals and two assists in Saturday’s win over Michigan State.  Patrick Lee was named one of the weekly Top Performers for his three point weekend that included the game winner in the waning seconds of Saturday match.

Iacobellis was also named co-UMass Athlete of the Week with running back Shadrach Abrokwah.

Hockey East owns an entire block of this week’s top ten in the USCHO poll with Providence, Boston College, and Lowell coming in as the 5th, 6th, and 7th schools respectively.  The Friars didn’t move in the poll after playing an exhibition game against the USA Hockey U18 team this past week.  BC moved up a slot with their 6-2 win at RIT while Lowell jumped two spots after gaining a win and a tie against Quinnipiac.  Boston University’s win over UMass keeps on giving as the Terriers have still only played that one game on the season yet slid up to #12 in the poll.  Vermont has joined the rankings at #17 after starting the season 3-0-0.  Notre Dame, Merrimack, New Hampshire, and Northeastern are all getting votes.

Like the USCHO poll, the Minnesota Gophers are the top team in the USA Hockey Magazine/USA Today poll.

The highlights from this past weekend have been posted on UMass Athletics.  They’re worth a watch.  From Friday’s highlights I was impressed by Shane Walsh’s long cross ice set up to Keith Burchett’s first goal as well as the nice job by Dennis Kravchenko and Zack LaRue on the shorthanded goal.  On Saturday, the Lee gamewinner is certainly the big highlight, but the second goal of the game shows some excellent puck movement and a nice job by Lee in collecting a loose puck to start the whole play off.  On that sequence is some of the best passing I’ve seen from UMass in recent memory so make sure to check it out.

Here’s the weekend recap from the Collegian.

And here are some weekend thoughts from the Spartan viewpoint at The Only Colors.

Jeff Cox of SBN College Hockey has UMass at #10 in his Hockey East power rankings.

USHR is reporting that former UMass and BU recruit Liam Coughlin is now committed to Vermont.  Coughlin was all set to join UMass this semester until he backed out of his commitment in April for BU, which he had dubbed his “dream school”.  Well that dream didn’t last long as he was already on the outs with BU by the end of the summer.

Weekend Recap: Massachusetts Splits With Michigan State

Coming off last weekend’s 8-1 loss where the young Massachusetts team collapsed in the third period when faced with adversity, what I was hoping to see in this weekend’s series with Michigan State was an ability to battle and stay in the game.  I think you can safely say that was accomplished as the team fought hard all weekend on the way to a split with the Spartans.  The Minutemen got exactly what they needed if they want to be successful this season; a lot of contributions from the freshmen and sophomores.

I was only able to listen to both games, so I won’t be able to get too deep in my analysis.  On Friday the Minutemen lost 5-3.  After a first period that saw MSU take a 2-0 lead and UMass defenseman Ben Gallacher get seriously injured after a check from behind, one had to wonder how UMass would respond in the second.  It was an early test to see if the team had learned anything from the third period against BU.  And it didn’t take long for them to show that in this case they would choose to battle rather than fold.  They scored two quick goals to start the second frame, the first a was off the stick of Keith Burchett after a nice cross-ice pass (or shot?) from Shane Walsh.  Just a few minutes after that Zack LaRue tied the game on a shorthanded goal after a nice feed from Dennis Kravchenko.  Michigan State regained the lead midway through the period on a power play goal.  Being down a defenseman started to take its toll however and Michigan State would extend its lead to 5-2 after a couple goals early in the third.  Again UMass hung in there and Burchett would score again on a wrister, again off a pass from Shane Walsh, 13 minutes into the period.

That would do it though and Michigan State picked up the win.  Judging from the radio commentary UMass continued to show lapses in their own defensive end and got a shaky performance from Steve Mastalerz in net.  Still, they had to play with five defensemen the whole game so that certainly had an effect on how the defense fared.  The Gallacher injury is a tough one since UMass is only carrying seven defensemen on the roster until Brandon Montour is due to arrive in December.

There were some key positives on Friday despite the loss.  Certainly the play of Burchett and his linemate Walsh were the most obvious.  But I think just the fact that most of the game was give and take with both teams trading scores showed that the young UMass team is maturing and learning how to handle the different situations that come up during the game.  While there were breakdowns, the team played hard for all sixty minutes and they were never really out of the game.  And it put them in a good jumping off point for Saturday.

FTT Player of the Game (Friday) – Keith Burchett
This is an easy one.  Some of the other freshman forwards had the great reputations as forwards, but it ends up being Burchett to have the first breakout game among the group.  Good things happen when you attack the net, and that’s exactly what he did in his first goal when Walsh found him from the other side of the ice.

The theme of the weekend was battle, and that’s exactly what Saturday’s game was.  A battle.  Luckily for the Minutemen they got the last punch in just before the bell.  Patrick Lee’s first collegiate goal with 9.9 seconds left gave UMass its first win of the season with a 4-3 final score.  The game was dominated by the underclassemen with freshmen and sophomores accounting for all four goals and 11 of the 12 points in the game.  On the other end of the ice freshman Henry Dill got a win in his first start, finishing with 28 saves.

The teams were held scoreless for the first 15 minutes of the game and then quickly saw three goals scored in the last five minutes of the period.  Steven Iacobellis got the scoring started only to have Spartan Matt Berry answer just over a minute later.  Jake Horton then picked up his second goal of the season to give the Minutemen the lead going into the second period.  Berry would pick up the lone goal of the second period and then take the 3-2 lead just seconds into the third.  It stayed that way for most of the third until Iacobellis picked up his second with four and a half minutes left in the game to tie it.  Michigan State would make a critical mistake with four minutes left in the game when Justin Hoomainian got a game misconduct for a contact to the head penalty, allowing UMass to play the balance of regulation with an extra man.  With 9.9 seconds left Lee got the game winner and UMass comes home to Amherst with the split.

There were a lot of positives to take away from last night’s game.  Obviously freshmen Lee and Dill playing big roles in the win is one of them.  Horton is living up to his reputation as an offensive threat with his second goal on the young season.  The biggest thing last night was how well sophomore forwards Iacobellis and Ray Pigozzi played.  After being held scoreless in the first two games of the season Iacobellis had the two goals to go with two assists.  Pigozzi had three assists on the night.  There are still a few things to be concerned about however.  The depth at defense could be an issue if Gallacher is out for a while.  UMass fans are also wondering when they’ll hear from Frank Vatrano and Dennis Kravchenko.  The two are first and second on the team in shots on goal but have only combined for one point through the first three games, an assist by Kravchenko.   Freshman Anthony Petrella was also expected to be an offensive threat after leading prep powerhouse Shattuck-St Mary’s in goals last season but through three games hasn’t registered a shot on net.

The split was a success from my standpoint as the team made strides in shaking off the poor performance against BU last week.  The freshmen showed that they can be counted on to contribute and did not seem to be intimidated by playing on the road.  That’s key considering next weekend they’ll be playing in their first league road games at Boston College and Northeastern.

FTT Player of the Game (Saturday) – Steven Iacobellis
Lee was the hero and Dill did well in his first start but two goals and two assists, including on the game winner, gets Iacobellis the nod.

Friday’s recap and Saturday’s recap from UMass Athletics.

USCHO’s game story from Friday.

There wasn’t much other coverage of the series to share.

Michigan State Preview

Michigan State Spartans 0-0-0 (0-0-0)  Big Ten T-1st

vs

Massachusetts Minutemen 0-1-0 (0-1-0)  Hockey East T-4th

The Massachusetts hockey team kicks off their non-conference schedule and a key three week, three state road stretch Friday night in East Lansing, Michigan against the Spartans of Michigan State.  The Minutemen will be looking to rebound from a season opening loss to the Boston University Terriers in a game where the lopsided 8-1 final score masks the fact that they were only down a single goal after two periods.  UMass and Michigan State met this same weekend last year in Amherst with UMass gaining the weekend sweep, outscoring the Spartans 8-3 in the two games.  The series featured a couple multi-goal games from Minutemen with Branden Gracel netting two on Friday and then freshman Steven Iacobellis scoring two goals to go with an assist on the Saturday.

Michigan State hasn’t played a real game this year so it’s tough to know exactly what the Minutemen will be facing when they take the ice at Munn Ice Arena on Friday.  They did have an exhibition game against a Canadian team as well as an intrasquad scrimmage.  The results of the intrasquad scrimmage could be an indicator for what Sparty fans are in store for this year.  The game ended in a 0-0 tie and had to be settled with penalty shots.  That in a nutshell could be what Michigan State faces this year, an inability to score and above average goaltending.

MSU lost their top three scorers from a team that only scored 2.19 goals per game last year.  They’ll first look to senior Matt Berry to solve their scoring woes as he’s coming off a season that saw him score 10 times total despite missing a third of the season due to injury.  That’s it in terms of returners who scored double digits in goals.  Junior Michael Ferrantino, captain of the team, had 9 goals and 11 assists last year.  Friday will mark the first game in the green and white for freshman Dylan Pavalek who is expected to contribute quickly as he comes out of the US National Development Program.

There are no question marks for the Spartans in net where junior Jake Hillenbrand will likely keep his team in a lot of games this season.  As a sophomore last year his .923 save percentage ranked him among the top 20 goaltenders in the country.  If he continues to develop MSU could end up being one of the better defensive teams in the country.

On offense UMass is facing the same challenges as Michigan state.  They’ve lost a lot of scoring from their team that last year was ranked near the bottom nationally for offense.  Unlike Michigan State, they have a much larger freshman class that will be looked upon to pick up the slack for goals this season.  Defenseman Jake Horton got on the scoring sheet last week, but the freshman forwards plus Frank Vatrano need to break out as well.  The top line of Vatrano, Dennis Kravchenko, and senior captain Troy Power got some good looks last week but need to find the back of the net.  A little worrisome is the sophomore duo of Ray Pigozzi and Iacobellis who only combined for three total shots against BU.  They’ll need to generate more offense than that to have an impact on the outcome.

I think more than Xs and Os or line combinations what’s most important this weekend is for the team to give a consistent effort and stay mentally tough.  For the freshman the first game jitters should be history.  The team has had another week to get used to linemates and perhaps learn new schemes.  It was awful to witness and seriously concerning at the time when it was occurring, but several days later the third period collapse doesn’t worry me as much as it did.  I think we can write if off to inexperience and the pressure of the night.  But that doesn’t mean it’ll be acceptable going forward.  Giving up goals in bunches like that and not getting back on defense simply cannot happen.  And hopefully the lesson has been learned that you just cannot let up like they did, because a team like BU will make you pay for it over and over.

The timing of this road trip is probably a good thing for the team.  They’re able to do some travelling, which could work to bond the team together.  And the first year players will have a chance to get used to a typical road trip routine and dealing with a hostile crowd before they head to Northeastern and Boston College next weekend in games that will count towards the Hockey East standings.  I don’t think there is a ton of pressure on the team to repeat last year’s sweep but at the same time  such a result isn’t completely unreasonable.  But at the end of the weekend it’ll probably be enough to just know that the offense is starting to click and the players are not missing their defensive responsibilities before moving on to the conference game trips in the coming weeks.

Beer The Triangle
East Lansing is actually a town I’ve spent significant time in.  Unfortunately for my BTT feature,most of that time was close to 20 years ago and before I turned 21.  This looks like somewhere I’d check out though.  Hell, you could always just drive down to Kalamazoo and check out one of my favorite breweries, Bell’s Brewing.

The Collegian has their preview of the Spartan series.

Frank Vatrano and Steve Mastalerz made this All-Massachusetts Team put together by Jeff Cox of SB Nation.

Ever want to drive the Zamboni at the Mullins?  Here is your chance!

View From Section U: Can UMass Win With Mick?

For my first View From Section U column of the season I might as well answer the question I’ve been asked pretty regularly going back to the end of last season.  Whether it be through social media, or on message boards, or at UMass football tailgates, or on the Mullins concourse following last Friday’s 8-1 loss, I’ve been asked the same question over and over.  “Can UMass win with Mick?”  I think it’s a natural question for Massachusetts hockey fans to ask.  Coach Micheletto has struggled so far, guiding the Minutemen to just 20 wins and a .341 winning percentage in his first two years in Amherst.  Attendance has dipped.  There has been some head scratching roster turnover.  There have been high profile recruits lost.  At the same time, out of Mick’s control and unfair to him, was the embarrassing debacle of a coaching transition led by Athletic Director John McCutcheon which didn’t make it easy for the fans of the program to rally around whomever was eventually selected to lead the team.  It’s been understandably tough to be a UMass hockey fan over the last two years and when you compile that with the five non-winning seasons that preceded under Toot Cahoon it’s no wonder that fans are impatient and desperate for any sign of a turnaround.

That of course leads to the question as we enter Micheletto’s third year at the helm of “Can UMass win with Mick?”  To which, I will give a confident answer of “I don’t know”.  And I’ll follow that up with an equally unhelpful “Ask me in 6 to 12 months.”  I’m not trying to avoid the question.  There is just too much unknown, too many question marks, and frankly too many newcomers to be able to fairly answer the question.

Mick has spent the last two years trying to implement a very specific system that requires a very specific skill set with the wrong type of players.  I’m not going to rehash it again, but the fact is that the square peg/round hole era of the last two seasons is over.  We got a little taste of what the right type of players can do in this system last season and I would think most fans were pleasantly surprised with what they saw from Mick’s first real class of recruits, specifically the play of Ray Pigozzi and Steven Iacobellis.  That type of play will hopefully only be the beginning.  This fall it’s like a dump truck backed up to the Mullins and unloaded an entire shipment of Mick recruits.  There are nine freshman on the roster for this season to go with last year’s five freshmen and transfer Ben Gallacher.  Add in 2nd round NHL draft pick Brandon Montour who is due to join the team in December plus the much talked about Frankie Vatrano, who essentially redshirted last year, and this roster suddenly looks entirely different from the team that won 20 games in the last two years.  Will they win?  I have no idea.  We’ll find out!

I usually think of Year 3 of a coach’s tenure to be make or break.  After two years of a coach putting their imprint on the program Year 3 is typically when fans’ expectations should migrate from hoping for wins to expecting them.  Not necessarily expecting a team to turn into world beaters mind you, but showing evidence of a recognizable trend towards success.  There are two factors, outside of his control, that makes those type of typical Year 3 expectations challenging to put upon Mick this year.  First is the a aforementioned Toot resignation/coaching search debacle by AD John McCutcheon.  Coaches are fired and hired in March or April.  Not July.  An incoming coach usually has a chance to meet with players before they leave for the summer and get them acquainted with strategy and training techniques.  Some coaches can even make some late additions to the incoming recruiting class.  Hired as late as he was, Mick was lucky enough to have his office unpacked before the players hit campus much less prepare them for an entire new way of doing things.  The other hindrance for him was the unbalanced class size.  He brought in a good number of players last year (and tried for more but was caught up in the red tape that enveloped Vatrano’s situation) but the team was still dominated by upperclassmen, brought in by Coach Toot Cahoon and his staff, suited to play a different style of hockey.  Mick and his staff basically had to wait for this current class of freshman to really make this their team.

And, in my opinion of someone who follows recruiting but still only has a fan’s knowledge of the sport, it’s a good and talented freshman class.  It’s not going to get the headlines.  It’s not going to make a list on a website.  But as I wrote in my season preview this class knows how to score and they’ve already proven in their careers that they can win.  I think these players are good enough that Mick can win with this class (plus Vatrano).  I don’t know if that winning would be sooner or later though.  I also don’t know what the ceiling is with these specific players.  But I think they’re better than the second to last place in Hockey East rut that UMass has seemingly made its home.  And the additional good news is that the future classes seem pretty talented too, with a number of players good enough that they’re getting the attention of USA Hockey and similar organizations.

So I think that Mick and his staff are assembling the players who can help turn around the program, even despite the loss of high profile recruits like Jake Wahlin and Alex DeBrincat.  With better suited players now on campus it’s even more important to educate and coach those players to be effective and successful in the offensive oriented system that has been implemented under his watch.  We’ve seem some glimpses of what that system can deliver, the most obvious being the 22% power play conversion last year, 2nd best among Hockey East teams.  But, don’t let that fleeting glimpse fool you, there is still a lot of work to be done.  We saw this first hand in the third period against BU where it didn’t take much to expose the risks inherent in such a system, not to mention risks inherent with inexperience, on the defensive end.  While the recruiting has been good so far, in my opinion, there’s probably one more key piece needed.  An elite goaltender.  That’s not a knock on Steve Mastalerz, who I think has always been unheralded and reliable.  Same goes for the other goaltenders on the roster.  But this system really needs a special goaltender who can make those unexpected saves on the odd man rushes that this system will eventually produce even on its good days.  Mick and the staff have been involved in the recruitment of a few of these special type of goaltenders, notably Alex Naglevoort who put up impressive numbers for Michigan last year.  But finally landing a top notch goaltender next year could be the key to sustained success and could help answer the question about just what is the ceiling for success in the coming years.

So that’s my answer to the question to whether UMass can win with Mick.  I don’t know.  I think the tools to win are coming into place.  Whether they’re used effectively or are even the right mix of players, remains to be seen.  But I believe UMass can win with these players.  When?  Well that’s a different story.  Just the sheer amount of first year players on this team means there’s going to be some serious growing pains this season.  Last Friday’s third period is submitted as Exhibit A to that fact.  The question is whether we’ll be able to accurately gauge if these players, and thus this staff, are what this program needs by the end of this season.  Given the youth and inexperience, is it too much to ask for the team to be winning by year’s end?  Again, I don’t know.  I would think at the very latest next year at this time it’s entirely fair for UMass fans to expect, not hope for, wins from this program.  Not near wins.  Not moral wins.  Wins.  The real ones.  The ones that they show in the standings and everything.  In the meantime I’m just going to do my best to be patient, get to know the newcomers who are donning the maroon and white for the first time, and watch some hockey.

The Collegian has this story on senior Zack LaRue embracing a leadership role on the heels of being named an assistant captain last week.

Captain Troy Power’s latest blog entry centers around LaRue and Oleg Yevenko’s leadership and the role of the freshmen on the team.

SBNation’s Jeff Cox is reporting that former BU forward and 2nd round NHL draft pick Sam Kurker is nearing a decision on where to continue his college career and that UMass is the front runner.  Kurker struggled at BU, amassing just four goals and two assists in one and a half seasons, but obviously he is skilled or the St Louis Blues wouldn’t have used a top draft pick on him.  Later tonight Mike McMahon reported that Kruker is still choosing between a number of schools, including Northeastern and Ohio State, so we’ll see how this ends up.

Former Minuteman Matt Irwin did well last night, scoring the fastest two goals by a player to open a game in Sharks history.

Both teams have their previews up for this weekend.  Here’s UMass’  And here’s State’s.

Recruit Update

Brandon Montour – D – Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) – Dec 2014
5 GP / 0 G / 6 A / 6 Pts / 2 PIM / +3
Montour is already the top scoring defenseman in the league with his 6 points, tied for 8th among all skaters.

Brandon Egli – D – Vernon Vipers (BCHL) – 2015
4 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Egli made his debut for the Vipers over the weekend after being traded from Victoria

Jake McCarthy – D – South Shore Kings (USPHL) – 2015 or 2016
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
McCarthy is still nursing an injury that is delaying his debut for the Kings.

Kurt Keats – C – Powell River Kings (BCHL) – 2015
8 GP / 6 G /5 A / 11 Pts / 10 PIM
Keats had a strong week with two goals and an assist over the weekend.  He’s currently tied for 6th in the BCHL for goals and tied for 15th for points.

Austin Plevy – C – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2015
13 GP / 7 G /13 A / 20 Pts / 20 PIM
Plevy is third in the league in points and tied for 12th in goals.

Troy Conzo – RW – Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL) – 2016 or 2017
1 GP / 0 G /0 A /0 Pts / 0 PIM
Conzo still has only played one game for the Bucs.

Kyler Nachtigall – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
13 GP / 2 G / 2 A / 4 Pts / 33 PIM
Nachtigall had a goal this past week.

Shane Bear – D – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
13 GP / 0 G / 8 A / 8 Pts / 14 PIM
Bear had three assists in his three game this past week.  He’s tied for second on Brooks in that category.

Ty Pelton-Byce – C – Team Wisconsin U18 (Elite)/Madison Memorial (WI HS) – 2016
15 GP / 9 G / 10 A / 18 Pts / 8 PIM  Team Wisconsin U18
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts  Madison Memorial
Pelton-Byce is tied for 8th in goals and 10th in points in the Elite League, despite playing few games than most of the other players.

John Leonard – F – Springfield Cathedral (MA HS) – 2017
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Waiting on HS hockey to start up.

I forgot to mention this in my recap over the weekend, but for those who missed it Zack LaRue and Oleg Yevenko were named assistant captains before Friday’s game.  Both solid choices and players who will need to do well for UMass to be successful this year.

Some interesting numbers coming out of the game against BU.  For example, their 8 goals represents 18% of their total conference game output last year.  Ugh.

Last month College Hockey News had this good introduction to some of the new stats now being used regularly in the game.  Since I enjoy numbers, you can bet on seeing some of them on FTT.

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